My father owns a success story much like a fairytale. A scholar all his life, top of the class in grade school, high school, college and law proper, a bar second placer and the rags-to-riches story inspiring to hear about. He almost lost everything during the Asian Financial Crisis but thankfully is back on his feet, on his second wind, wiser, smarter and more excited for the future at the young age of 70. He hasn’t allowed age to slow him down as much, and continues to work six days a week, albeit at a less frenetic place. He won’t ever stop working, pursuing his goal to improve as much as possible, professionally, personally and as a family-man, caring for six children. Yes, he still worries about us despite being adults now.
There are parallels here with Lexus. The relentless pursuit of perfection, never giving up, always trying to do better, to be better. He has never cared for much for earthly possessions aside from a simple admiration for cars that he says he cannot afford.
As a son, I try my best to be there for my father, play a supporting role whenever possible and do his errands for him so he can focus on the more important tasks at hand, leading us at work and providing order, balance and stability.
So, when the opportunity came to drive him to work down south, I grabbed the chance to do so, and spend quality time with him, as our contact has been very minimal since the start of the pandemic. The perfect vehicle of choice would be the Lexus LM350. It truly is the epitome of ‘speak softly, but carry a big stick.’ The Lexus has presence that isn’t loud or calls attention to itself as it is simply confident and goes about its way with purpose. Just like my father. You know he’s the boss when he walks in, but doesn’t want to call out or attract attention. Incognito is one of his mottos.
Cynics will think the LM is nothing but a tarted up Toyota Alphard, which it shares its basic architecture and powertrain. The engine is the same 2GR-FKS 3.5 later V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, outputting 296hp and 340 Newton-Meters of torque. It also rides on the same 3,000mm wheelbase as the Alphard. But the LM is a bit longer, and benefits from more refinement and NVH isolation. Chief of which are double-pane glass windows which further reduces road and wind noise, and Lexus’ Swing-Valve Technology for the suspension, something missing from the Alphard which explains a lot about the LM 350’s magic carpet ride and separates it further from its Toyota brethren. Key structural components are stiffer and stronger, and there’s more sound deadening to deliver the refinement and solitude one expects from a Lexus. These changes seem minor, but the sum of all these improvements changes the feel and ambiance of the LM 350.
Picking up my father from his office, I intentionally make him sit in the middle row captain’s seat, reclined and moved back to allow maximum legroom, while I was the solitary occupant up front, like a faithful driver. I could tell my Dad felt relaxed immediately, giving me a sense of satisfaction. On the highway, the 3,000mm wheelbase gives maximum stability, though the tall slab sides are affected by strong crosswinds on the elevated expressway. But that stability also gives you confidence to hustle the Lexus, overtaking slower moving cars with ease and confidence on the highway and even on winding roads.
Since it was getting late, we went for drive through and ordered some sandwiches. The LM350 has airplay style stow-away tables which pop-up and allowed my Dad to eat and catch up on messages on his mobile phones. Truly, the life of a driven individual on a typical workday is constant yet evenly paced. Life isn’t a sprint race, but a test of endurance after all. The LM 350 hums along silently as we conquer the highways and byways of the south, from super smooth roads to broken tarmac and everything in between. A few times I had to maneuver to avoid obstacles and parked vehicles, but the LM 350’s 5.6-meter turning radius, coupled with two high definition reverse cameras (the rear view mirror is actually a reverse camera too, aside from the infotainment screen) gives you confidence to change your route mid-journey to make the best time possible. Many times in my father’s life, he had to make tough decisions for the sake of what was right, for the sake of his family, and for the people who work with him, sacrificing personal gain. Yet those around him took it for granted, much the same way you will take the Lexus’ considerable 5040mm length a paltry thing when you realize how easy and maneuverable it is.
I had been focused on my Dad’s comfort and well-being that I forgot to notice the features that will please any driver: the multi-media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the seamless hands-free telephone operation, and the crisp, sharp and very clear music from the Mark Levinson Surround Sound System, arguably the best, if not the best system in the world. Shame my Dad prefers watching YouTube clips on his phone of his favorite action movies after he finishes a bit of work.
Despite its looks, Lexus quotes a surprisingly brisk (for a van) 7-second sprint to 100km/h from rest, and an academic top speed of 230km/h. And should I lose the plot, four airbags, vehicle dynamics control (traction / stability control), ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist will keep me reigned in from my foolish ways, much the same way my Dad has always pulled me out of serious trouble in my 42 years of life.
As we arrive at our destination, my work is half done for the day while my Dad is just getting into gear, preparing his mind for the next set of meetings with various people. Refreshed, relaxed and impressed with the LM 350, he asks me how much this executive express cost. I tell him, “5.6 large ones for this 7-seater variant Dad”. My Dad is mildly shocked, surprised at how things have become so expensive. With a twinkle in his eyes, he says to me: “well, I should work harder if I want to buy one.”
That’s my Dad. Modest, humble and hard-working. I am glad I could treat my Dad to a ride in the Lexus LM 350. My goal should be to work hard and buy him one someday.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.